Which Way Should I Go?
My 5 point plan for fixing society’s directional problem because we’re all half-assing this and it sucks.
So sure, we’re used to free-roaming in grocery and retail stores. Remember when you were able to walk straight over to that super shiny object that caught your eye from across the store? Well, we’re not supposed to be doing that.
Not for a while.
Yet, every large store I’ve had to visit post-pandemic has arrow-non-compliant shoppers. I want to give them all the benefit of the doubt and say that the responsibility of enforcing ‘mandatory arrow policy’ is a shared one. Stores must publicly announce the policy for all to see, and the public must comply. So, if it’s ‘mandatory,’ what’s the problem?
It’s very complex and involves a far-reaching set of human behaviors that would take volumes to elaborate on. Whether they are personal, political, religious, anti-this and that, plus all of the other stuff too, it doesn’t matter.
The point is that with such obvious non-compliance it is clear that this isn’t being handled correctly. By anyone.
I was told by several store managers that there isn’t much they can do to enforce the rule. So, we have a ‘mandatory’ rule in place to keep us safe that isn’t enforced as mandatory therefore it’s not taken seriously. There’s no backbone behind it and now, because of months-long lax handling, some are taking advantage causing an even worse problem as the world (myself included) is just trying to stay alive.
Too many are half-assing it and that needs to change.
I like to solve problems, so I’ve developed a simple 5-point plan to address this one. Pulling from the disciplines of marketing, communications, and sociology, plus my personal experience of owning a retail store a lifetime ago, I offer these sensible and easy-to-implement solutions that don’t break the bank.
Point #1 — If there’s an arrow on the floor that no one can see, is it really there?
Not if the arrow is the size of my shoe (6.5, BTW). Maybe stores could make a BIGGER effort (pun intended) to make them visible. Humans are lazy. Humans don’t like to change their behaviors, so make it as easy as possible for them to do so.
Remember when the highway first added lane markings? (Neither do I, I’m not that old.) Beginning in the 1930s and into the 1940s, the Interstate Highway was designed to keep everyone safe. In 1956 it became law.
US engineers studied Germany’s Autobahn and came back with the attitude ‘we can do better.’
Yes, we can.
Point #2 — Think like a designer
This may not be something you’ve ever thought about, but design plays a significant role in our lives, and I’m not just saying that because creative people are my very favorite people.
According to renowned design critic and author Alice Rawsthorn’s book, Hello World: Where Design Meets Life, “Design is one of the most powerful forces in our lives, whether or not we are aware of it, and can also be inspiring, empowering, and enlightening.” She says it can do great things for society and that it can also do great harm when not employed correctly.
Is the arrow’s color very similar to the color of your flooring (as it was in one store that put silver arrows on a grey floor)? Brightly colored tape is a thing since Project Runway has had their designers create Duct tape dresses back in season 11. The episode was titled “Sticky Situation,” and we sure have a sticky situation now. Pick a high-contrast color, please? Colored tape costs the same as others, so why not do the right thing?
Point #3 — 5 Senses
Put a very polite reminder about following the store’s safety policy on a loop to play LOUDER than the Muzak (you know, like annoying TV commercials). And, unlike what the manager at one grocery chain told me the other day, it needs to be looped more frequently than every 30 minutes. According to Statista, the national average time spent in US grocery stores is 33 minutes. On a quick cat food run that day, I wasn’t in the store long enough to hear it.
And, the more senses we engage when learning, the better. So, why not use the already-in-place and paid-for sound system to its fullest societal potential? Here’s a quick script I wrote based on a riff from the standard airline pilot shtick:
“Hello, this is your Store Manager speaking. Welcome and thank you for shopping with us today. We know you have a choice of grocery stores and we’re glad you chose us. Remember to use your loyalty card to get all of the great discounts and gas points. Don’t have one? One of our cashiers will be happy to give you an application. And, we’d like to remind you of the safety rules. It is our state’s law that all shoppers are required to wear masks while shopping with us. Please stay 6 feet apart from your fellow shoppers. Lastly, if you look down, you’ll see the arrows on the floor to help you navigate safely. Thank you for shopping with us and have a great day at your final destination.”
Point #4 — Show the full path
I think aisles should have several arrows to change consumer behavior, not only at the two ends. I’ve witnessed someone pointing out ‘the wrong way’ to a non-compliant fellow shopper who looked around on the floor a bit confused, then turned and replied, “I don’t see any arrows.”
True. So let’s fix that.
One of the basic principles of design is movement. This is when visual cues are used to direct how we move through a physical space. If you’ve ever been inside the Guggenheim Museum, you know what I mean. The spiral is a spectacular visual treat with tremendous impact.
Like most ‘new’ ways of being, it was not immediately embraced, but in this NPR article, there is a most interesting quote from Frank Lloyd Wright scholar and Harvard professor Neil Levine, who said about its design, “So everything is different from ‘the real world.’”
You can say that again. Not anything like the real world we’ve ever known.
Point #5 — Eye eye!
Why not have a few at eye level too? It wouldn’t take much to affix arrows along the existing shelving. Easy peasy.
Let’s fix this too.
If you want humans to change their behavior, then nudging them (incessantly) is how to do it until the message finally gets through. Hopefully, we all make a big enough effort before running out of time.
I’d like to live long enough to say that I lived long enough to live through this mess. If you do too, pass the word.